Editor’s note: Truity Credit Union offers a range of financial services, including saving and checking accounts, mortgages and auto loans. Founded in 1939, Truity has branches in Bartlesville, Oklahoma; Lawrence, Kansas; Houston, Texas; and Springdale, Arkansas. In the last year, the company has completely revamped its email program, to great success. In this conversation with Act-On, Kyle Dahlgren, Assistant Vice President of eCommerce and Roxy Duncan, Senior eCommerce Interactive Designer tell how they did it. This conversation has been edited for length. Read the case study here.
ACT-ON: What are some of the broad kind of changes or challenges taking place in the credit union industry?
KYLE: The credit union industry is an alternative to banks. In many ways, we do all the same things banks do; we have regulations to keep up with to make sure that we’re doing everything correctly for our members. The big thing that separates a credit union from a bank is we have members. They join through some eligibility process [such as employment], but they also are essentially where all our profits go, because we use profits to lend back to our member base.
We also, as well as every bank out there, have been dealing with the fact that the economy has really had some downturns and struggles. Whenever that occurs, people get a little bit tighter with their money, while at the same time expecting more. We have more regulations, tighter economic times, but still the same expectation that we keep growing and moving forward.
ACT-ON: What were the challenges that made you consider moving to marketing automation?
KYLE: About four years ago, we started the process of creating an ecommerce department. We are a small team; there’s only four of us total, and that includes me. But if we compare ourselves to a bank that’s got 20,000 people, we still have the same expectations. We have to send out notifications, we have to send out various updates to members as things change with their accounts.
When we started looking at marketing automation, we had an immediate transactional need. But we felt we could do a lot more with the marketing once we grew into it.
ROXY: A lot of our marketing beforehand was one-off. We would generate lists and shoot emails out into the ether of our members, trying to see who was interested in an auto loan, or who was interested in a credit card, or anything like that. A lot of our emails came from our core system, so they were text only.
Going beyond transactional emails to proactive acquisition marketing
ACT-ON: Was the email marketing the main thing that wasn’t working ideally for you? Were there other things that you thought could be addressed through marketing automation as well?
KYLE: I don’t think it’s that certain things were problems before; it’s that certain things weren’t being done. We just didn’t have the bandwidth to address a lot of the things that, A, we wanted to do, and B, were asked of us. Roxy’s an army of one when it comes to creating emails; we don’t have a team working on those. As we thought about this opportunity we realized we would be asked for more and more as time goes on, and we thought about how to do this most effectively. We already use technology to interact with our customers, enough to know that if we can set up a template and it just feeds itself, that’s far better.
ACT-ON: What were some of those things that you weren’t doing that you thought you would need to do in the future?
KYLE: Transactions were our focus. We’re now getting to the point where we can begin to send people things based on either account behavior or outside behavior – websites they’re visiting, forms they’re filling out, and/or actions they’re taking on the email, opening it or not opening it. We can begin to find people who need what they want when they want it.
ROXY: In the old days [pre-marketing automation] we’d send out one email for credit cards. We would wait X amount of time, look at the report, figure out who didn’t open, who opened, then craft and send another one-off email with a reminder of the offer. We’d monitor ’til the very end, then look at the list, create a new list from that, and then send another one-off.
Now it’s so nice to just put them in a drip campaign. We send out an email. If they don’t open it the program sends them one email; if they do open it the program sends them a different email – if they didn’t already fill out a form. It maintains itself for the entire length of the campaign, which is just so much easier. It takes a lot of the workload off, and we don’t have to think about it as much afterwards. So it’s just wonderful.
KYLE: That touches on two versions of the drip campaigns we do. One is more of a short play. This month we’re having a credit card campaign, and so we might send up to three emails to an individual over the course of a month based on that person’s different actions.
We’ve have just now begun to do the longer play, which is based on information from our core. For example, the average turnover on car loans is 24 months. So we are now saying at X month send this option, because we think people who are paying off their car might eventually want to buy a new car. These programs are only now coming into fruition.
ACT-ON: Roxy, since you’re the power user, what features are you using the most within the system? Are you doing segmentation, automated nurture programs, web forms?
ROXY: I still do a lot of one-off emails, so I’m using Act-On’s email composer for those. I’m also using landing pages and forms. I’ve done A/B testing on some of the emails. I’m using the automated programs, I’m using campaigns. I’m also using the RSS-to-email for our newsletters to our travel club. That’s pulling in data from our website so we can announce new trips and new events. Our developer helped me set up those RSS feeds so I can pull that in.
We’re using list maintenance in several different ways. People enter some of our contests or they enter some of our forms for other data, that writes over to other lists, which we kick off into drip campaigns. The only thing that we are not using – that I would like to use in the future – is the webinar component. We’ve talked about maybe using that next year to host meetings about how to buy your first home, etc.
Using contests and events to generate prospects
ACT-ON: Tell us a little more about contests and landing pages. How did those work, and how does marketing automation feature into those campaigns?
ROXY: In some of our contest signups we may give away a trip to Washington, DC, or do a holiday hunt (people hunt for icons on our website and win Visa gift cards); we’ve done tickets to college sporting events, things like that. Our members (or even non-members) will sign up in forms. We have checkboxes that ask if they’re interested in checking accounts, Visa cards, auto loans, or home loans.
I run a list maintenance program after they enter data in those forms. Based on whatever they enter, that puts them into another list if they check yes to any of those. So if they were interested in a Visa card, they get put into a program that waits five days and then sends them an email talking about our Visa card. We’ve had a really good turnaround on that so far. It does the same with the checking account and with the home loans. It sends off a notification so one of our mortgage officers could call.
KYLE: We have something like 20 events, 30 events throughout the year by different folks. Remember that we’re an employment-based credit union, which means people who work for our qualifying partners can join as members. Events are very powerful for us because it’s an avenue for us to go and speak at an event at one of those employers.
We can’t do general ads; we can’t put an ad in Sports Illustrated saying, join the credit union, because 99 percent of the people reading that would not be able to join. But if one of our biggest partner companies is having a new hire event, and we can speak to those people, tell them the advantages of our credit union for them, we know everyone in the room can join. We get to speak to the right people at the right time, and then keep in contact with them afterwards through these drip campaigns.
ACT-ON: How do you get the information you gather from the event to the Act-On system? Where does Act-On play in that particular process?
KYLE: Step one, a form is created, that is usually shown on an iPad at the event. We encourage all attendees to sign in and sign up. The form asks for basic contact information along with financial product interests, whether you’re interested in opening up a checking account, auto loan, credit card, mortgage. Of course we include the proper disclosures and ask that we may email you. Everyone who fills out the form is sent to a list, and then we segment it out based on what event they went to, which products they are interested in.
And then Roxy takes over from there, with the various programs that she’s created, and the emails begin offering them those products at different intervals. We’re always trying to refine when is not enough and when is too much to communicate. But we’re getting there. And it’s reaching them at the right time.
ACT-ON: Have you been using it for customer segmentation? And if so, how?
ROXY: Yes. When we pull in our list from our member database, we use segmentation all the time. Sometimes that’s based upon the tier level of their credit basis. Or sometimes it’s segmented by which branch they’re associated with, because we do have four states that we have branches in. We also have a main list that says what services they have with us, such as a checking account, mortgage, or Visa card; when they opened it, when they last used it, things like that, so we know how to send out the proper email to contact them at a later time.
Making email easier and more effective
ACT-ON: What does Act-On enable you to do now that you couldn’t do before?
KYLE: We used to send emails from our core system. Well, our core system was not an email management system. Therefore we wouldn’t have the reporting or the response or any of the information on undeliverable email addresses. So by the sheer fact of moving it over to a proper email service, we now get a lot more information, and we’re working to loop back all those bad email addresses to our core so we improve our overall data on our members.
ROXY: One thing is the customizable templates that you can make for your stationery. That’s been so helpful for keeping us branded correctly.
Before, I would have to build every email in Dreamweaver and make modifications from that, try to keep it the same always. That was sometimes difficult. Now it’s just so much easier to send out an email at any time, just dropping in text. That and the landing pages have been wonderful. And forms, I just think it really dressed up the forms. Once we got that down, it brought our forms into this century.
KYLE: Right about the time we started Act-On was about the time we started making all of our emails fully responsive. Some of our other attempts, some of the other email services we used here and there, didn’t always allow you to put full HTML5 control in there and make it 100 percent your own. There were certain filters or blocks in place, but we can pretty much do whatever we want now.
ROXY: I can tell you two really great things. First, we’re able to send variable information. Let’s say somebody’s preapproved for a rate of 2.75 on an auto loan, and they have a limit of $20,000 that they could use, we didn’t have that. We would have to make separate lists for each group of people, make separate emails. It was labor intensive. Whereas now, using that variable information, it’s so easy. And we can just do data merges, which is wonderful. It cuts down the amount of time to create those emails.
KYLE: A testament to Roxy: she’s set up something like 20 automation campaigns, which probably contain 40 to 50 emails that are sent out on a regular basis. So it’s a lot of work in one year’s time.
ROXY: But the emails and campaigns are now set up and maintaining on their own and so are the lists. And we’re seeing a lot more results.
ACT-ON: How do you measure success? Have you been able to benchmark your improvements?
KYLE: Absolutely. We gauge some of the standard metrics: how many we send, percent open, percent clicked, and then – if we can get it, because not everything’s this cut and dried in the financial world – but if we can get it, a conversion rate.
ROXY: Here’s a good example. When we did credit card campaigns before, we’d have a pretty good turnaround, but our numbers are just skyrocketing compared to previous years.
KYLE: It’s hard to compare or talk about an improvement, because we just weren’t doing this before. We sent emails that made an offer, ”Why don’t you open a credit card, here are the advantages.” What Roxy’s describing now is more of a full integration where we are sending out the emails, and following up at the appropriate time with the appropriate new message. But it also gives people the option to fill out a form, which gets routed to our credit card department, to work with them to finalize the new credit card.
I think there was some expectation that it wouldn’t work quite as well as it did. And then the first week that we had 200 credit card applications come in, and our staff said “What’s going on?” And we responded that “This a good problem to have, let’s keep it going.”
ACT-ON: Are there any metrics around the increased email open rate, click-through rates, qualified leads, higher conversion rates, even increased sales revenue?
KYLE: Comparing it to past years, before we had Act-On in place, it’s like 200 percent more opens or something like that. But we’re sending more emails than we used to, so that’s a hard one to look at. But if you look at the percentage of what was opened versus what we sent, we probably got about a 10 percent increase.
ROXY: I’ve got an example because I run campaigns on our credit card offers. So just from all the credit card offers that we’ve sent since using Act-On, from the emails we’ve got a 42.5 percent open rate. These are the ones that are just preapprovals or credit card offers if you’re interested in a credit card. This is not like the one at just an event. These are what we’re sending out to our members. And our click rate on those is about 9.21, which is pretty incredible.
I think there’s so many components at play, especially with spam scoring, we’re making sure that these are landing in people’s in boxes. We’re also seeing who’s bouncing, what bad emails we have.
KYLE: In many ways marketing automation has fundamentally changed how we’ve done things. We used to have a website with just had some information and how to call us. But marketing automation has really allowed us, the four of us in our department, to implement best practices in digital marketing, to create content to use to reach the people, to use forms to gather information, gather leads, or gather actions that members want to take, and push it from there. We don’t have a meeting where we’re not discussing some kind of promotion or effort to communicate with our members, where we don’t consider how Act-On can help us because of the flexibility, and the forms.
It’s not an email program. It’s more than that. Because it’s integrated with our website, we’re able to hook it up various places on social media, we’re able to use it in a variety of avenues at these events to make sure that we use it to do more than just emails, but true marketing automation.
ACT-ON: Generally speaking do you feel like you’re a more kind of effective, competitive marketing organization with this tool?
KYLE: We are, like it or not, compared to the very biggest banks because no matter where we are located geographically, all our members have the Internet and can just go online and leave us at any point and go somewhere else if they wanted to. But it allows us to stay competitive with a much larger organization. It’s changed our capacity.
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